Brain drain is the root of Nigeria’s fraud pandemic

After my last article about the hushed rape of the Nigerian financial ecosystem, which some call fraud, quite a number of people reached out to share their horror stories hoping I could step in and solve their problems and it got me thinking.


I started asking myself – what’s the foundation of this horrible thing called fraud?


I worked in banking for 16 years before they kicked me out and I remember the quick and decisive ways we dealt with fraud in those days. And I keep asking myself – what happened to the good old days when we tackled fraud without mercy? What changed?

I hate to break it to you, but it’s the people. It’s the people who have changed.

The machine is fine, the man is not

I recently started working with banks again and I’ve found myself comparing the quality of people I knew and left in banking with those I meet with now. Sadly, the latter have come up short. 

Most of my colleagues back then are now Executive Directors and Managing Directors in the banks and I still engage with them often. Their quality remains undisputed; they’re still as sharp as ever, driven and want to get things done. This is a far cry from my experience working with the middle managers who are charged with running these banks. The difference is clear as day. The sad reality is that the incompetence, apathy and poor outcomes from the financial sector are because there are no good hands to manage things effectively anymore.

We’re all busy crying that the working class are leaving the country in droves but that’s not the real problem. The main issue is not that people are japa-ing, it’s that the BEST brains are the ones leaving. Those who successfully migrate to Canada or the UK, especially via the education pathway, are not your average guys. These are the brainy bunch who passed the IELTS, got top grades and paved the way with their competence. Let’s be serious, not many people fall into this category. 

The truth is that only the best brains can go, at least the right way. I’ll save my ink and not bother diving into the other ridiculous pathways.

Banking’s greatest hits are throwbacks

Think about this: what hit product has come out of banking in the past five years during this latest wave of brain drain?

Nothing.

Bank Verification Number (BVN), Interbank transfers, mobile money and all the other cool stuff that have transformed the Nigerian finance space over the last few years? Those either started a long time ago or are the latest innovations of fintechs founded by people who bailed on traditional banking.

The best guys are long gone and there’s no covering up anymore; it’s showing, especially in the fight against fraud. Those with the intelligence and competence to deal with the fraud pandemic aren’t around anymore.

The two major impacts of the best brains leaving is that they’re no longer here to teach the rookies and even more importantly, they are not around to dilute the influence of the poor talent. And now the whole nation is suffering for it.

Today, customers of every bank complain about unauthorized transactions on their account and what do we hear in response? Crickets. The ease with which fraudsters are taking the money shows zero competence from those in charge of stopping this. And don’t even get me started on the Know Your Customer (KYC) process from the stone age the banks still use. 

Lack of tech is not the problem so more tech is not the solution

Some people have come around to suggest the use of Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) etc. But the use of ML and AI only makes sense if the banks acknowledge they have a problem in the first place. If you report fraud to your bank today, the response will most likely lack the urgency that shows an understanding of the seriousness of the issue from the jump. So is it really the tech that’s lacking? 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is only as good as the Human Intelligence (HI) using it.

The tools the banks need to tackle fraud are gathering dust in their already existing arsenal. They’re not being used. Technology is not the problem.

Why won’t the banks come together to solve the problem and create an effective deterrent to fraud? Because it requires competence and discipline. And those two guys seem to have colluded and left the building. 😔

What’s the plan?

We’re in a serious crisis, and I don’t have the answer, but brain drain is the root of this problem. I cannot be convinced otherwise. But you are welcome to try. Let’s lay it all on the table and look at it together.

The leadership in the banks is still pretty impressive but they need to address this problem urgently. It’s time to either upskill their current talent or bring some of those who have japa’d to come back to help. It goes without saying that they will pay through their noses for this; especially for those who’ve gotten their papers and aren’t hungry anymore.

Because if this continues, contrary to what we like to tell ourselves, we will not be alright, and nothing will be okay.


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Author: Adedeji Olowe

Adedeji / a bunch of bananas ate a monkey /

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